In this print, Wenceslaus Hollar presents a portrait of an unidentified woman, copying a portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger. The identity of the sitter is a mystery: formerly, the portrait was believed to be of Catherine of Aragon, and the National Portrait Gallery in London identifies her as Queen Mary I when she was Princess Mary. Adding more to this scholarly frustration is how the portrait on which the print appears to be based, in the Royal Collection Trust (RCIN 912257), is likewise unidentified.
Nonetheless, copying works of famous masters was a common task of printmakers from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. It allowed a wide audience to become familiar with the work, but it was also a lucrative source of income. Wenceslaus Von Prachna Hollar was a prolific and accomplished Bohemian graphic artist of the seventeenth century. His work embraced a great variety of subjects, including scenes from the bible, historical pictures, maps, portraits of his chief contemporaries, views of cities, flower and fruit pieces, and various illustrations to books. His clever sketches of costume, his views of old London and other cities are invaluable to the historian. His engravings are executed with much spirit and carefully finished. Having produced more than 3000 different prints during his career, his works can be found in nearly every major museum collection. This print can be found in important collections across the world including in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and in the Royal Collections Trust – the collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Hans Holbein the Younger was one of the most sought-after artists of the 16th century. He came from northern Europe at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, emigrating to England where he became the court painter for King Henry VIII. Along with portraits of the king and his court, he also produced miniature portraits that are likewise prized for their sincerity and accurate likeness. It was during his time in the court of Henry VIII that the original portrait of this woman was added to the Royal Collections.
4.63 x 4 inches, artwork
15.38 x 14.75 inches, frame
Lettered below image with production details: 'HHolbein pinxit, W: Hollar fecit, ex Collectione Arundeliana, Ao. 1647.'
References: Pennington 1549 ii/ii; New Hollstein (Hollar Part III) 983 III/IV
Framed to conservation standards using 100 percent rag matting and housed in a gold finish wood frame
Overall good condition; some planar distortion and wrinkling to corners of print due to historical mounting; some wear to gold finish of frame